Remove the Plaque Dedicated to the Military Personnel who Helped Subjugate the Métis
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On the entrance to the Public Gardens in Halifax, Nova Scotia, hangs a plaque that was dedicated (in 1907) to the military personnel who helped stop the Métis people in Saskatchewan from protecting their lands and rights, as well as the rights of First Nations and non-indigenous settlers who had already lived in the area. They called their actions a "rebellion". The Métis were lead by Louis Riel, who was executed based on an arcane 14th century British law, and not one of our Canadian laws, in order to see him dead. The jury, though finding him guilty, begged the court to spare his life, but prejudices at the time had won, and the judge made his final decision in 1885.
This plaque that sits on the main entrance of a tourist hotspot, The Public Gardens on Spring Garden Road, serves to convince everyone who reads it, that the Métis are a conquered people; defeated and subjugated rebels, and violent subjects of the Crown who needed to be pacified for the safety and success of non-indigenous peoples. The Métis were in fact -not- subjects of the Crown, and the Crown's claim to the land was dubious, at best. The label of a "rebellion" serves to rewrite history by inferring they were being policed by their own institutions and government. This misnomer also helped distance themselves from any accusations of invading and stealing lands- because 'you can't invade and steal from your own disloyal subjects'.
Since then, Canada has begun to come to terms with how indigenous populations have been treated, as well as how they're represented in our society.
According to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, from the U.N., the telltale facets of genocide are listed as such:
"In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its
physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."
The Métis people have suffered every injustice listed above by the Canadian government. They were met on the field of battle, when their rights were denied, because killing was preferable over forging treaties. Innocent people were beaten and killed for being in the wrong place, at the wrong time. They were forced into residential schools to "kill the Indian in the child", where they were physically, mentally, emotionally and sexually abused at an incredibly alarming rate. They took their lands and their rights as indigenous peoples in Canada for 100+ years, and they tried to take our dignity. Sterilization programs have targeted indigenous women for decades in this nation, but is thankfully no longer common. And the government still occasionally removes indigenous children from their families, and places them with people outside of their culture, which is a left-over behaviour of the 60's scoop- a program meant to remove indigenous culture from the next generation, which was then touted as "improving their lives".
According to the U.N.'s definitions, the Métis people, and all indigenous peoples in Canada, have faced genocidal tactics in their interactions with the government and settlers.
This plaque needs to be removed, if not for the dignity of the Métis and all indigenous peoples, but for the dignity of all Haligonians who oppose genocide, the denigration of indigenous struggles and pride, celebrating the people who committed these terrible acts, and rewriting history.
Halifax deserves better.
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